Dordt College News

Dordt Basketball Chicago Experience

July 1, 2014

Chicago Experience 2014

Compiled by JD Boer

In June (June 14-19), the Dordt College men’s basketball team had the opportunity to travel to Chicago to host a basketball camp for elementary children and perform general cleaning at Chicago West Side Christian School. Coach Douma used the opportunity to give the players an experience many had never had been exposed to before. Eyes were opened to the problems in the Chicago neighborhoods; players and coaches formed deeper relationships; and fun was had by all took part in this life-changing event.

Early Saturday morning - June 14 - members of the team loaded up the mini-bus and began the long road trip to Chicago. The three incoming freshman making the trip were Taylor Feenstra, Andrew O’Donnell, and Leighton Sampson. Sophomores joining the group were Patrick Knoblauch, Bryan Sumner, Alex Terpstra, and Austin Vermeer. The juniors were Nathan Rindels, JD Boer, and newcomer Emeka Okoronkwo. The senior leaders for the trip were Tyler Wolterstorff and David Den Herder. Coaches Ross Douma, Derek Keizer, and Lance Johnson did a great job of making arrangements and keeping everyone in order throughout the trip. The nine hour drive Saturday to Chicago took a lot out of the group, but everyone was excited when we finally arrived at Chicago West Side Christian School, the place we would be calling home for the next four days. Meeting us was the principal of the school, Mary Post, a Dordt College graduate. Upon arrival, members of the team set up their beds in a couple classrooms that were provided before heading out to eat with the whole team. At night, everyone got together as Coach Douma led the team through devotions, talking about some of the things we might see on the streets of Chicago and how eyes would be opened to the things we would be seeing and experiencing during our time there.
Coach Douma woke the team up on Sunday morning to get ready for church. The church we attended was called North Lawndale CRC. The service was held in the grass area right outside the school. The service was much different than most services we have been a part of growing up. There was rapping and dancing, and the church members were very involved in the service. The Dordt team was also involved as Coach Douma talked about what we were doing in Chicago and a few team members even went up front to join the choir with actions to “Lord I Lift Your Name on High.” The Father’s Day service was powerful as the message was on the importance of the role of a father in a person’s life. The congregation was very open and kind to us, and we enjoyed their company after church at a potluck for all the attendees of the service.

After church on Sunday, the team went to the beach at Lake Michigan for a fun afternoon. The water was a little chilly, but everyone had a good time. Pushing people in the water, burying Patrick in the sand, and playing a whole team football game were a few of the activities that kept everyone busy at the beach. After we had showered, we ordered in Chicago style pizza from Giordano’s and watched the last game of the NBA Finals together as a team back at the school. At night, we discussed the things we had seen that day. The church service along with simply being on the streets of Chicago had already made an impact on us and challenged us on how we view poverty, crime, and difficult living conditions.

Our work that we set out to do in Chicago started Monday morning. The juniors and seniors, along with Coach Johnson would be running a camp for area kids in grades 3rd to 7th. There were about fifteen boys and girls that showed up for the camp, and they came with lots of excitement and energy. Many of them loved basketball and were eager to learn from college kids, even though they were somewhat disappointed none of us would be entering the NBA Draft the following week. We broke the kids into groups and taught them fundamentals about basketball. Many of the children had talent, but had not learned good fundamentals, so this was a great learning opportunity for them. We finished the two hour camp with some games before handing out Dordt Basketball T-Shirts to the campers and their family members.

For the service projects Monday, the rest of the group began doing work in the school. They moved desks to hallways to clear up space for the carpet cleaner who was coming in a couple days and also performing some landscaping duties around the school. That afternoon, the team had the opportunity to go kayaking in downtown Chicago on the Chicago River. It was a great experience to see all the incredible buildings up close, but also a great workout as we kayaked about 6 miles in the two hours we were on the water. However, it was probably closer to seven hours for David and Taylor as they could not keep their kayak moving straight in one direction.  We had fun kayaking as well as laughing at David and Taylor.

After a short break back at school, we went to a National Guard Armory to take part in an open gym with two colleges, Concordia (IL) and North Park (IL). We were all anxious to play together for the first time since our season ended in March. We were pretty tired due to the fast paced nature of the game and being somewhat out of shape, but all went well and it was great to see how things might fit together this season as we enjoyed playing together for the first time this summer. After a quick stop to eat on the way home, we talked about what the plan was for the next day before heading to bed. We were all very tired after a long day.

The team woke up Tuesday ready for another day filled with service and basketball. The camp was once again held in the morning. Although there was not necessarily all the same kids attending, the kids came back with a lot of energy and worked hard for the two hours of camp. For the service aspect, some players spent time painting shelves in the classroom. The rest of the guys went out into the streets to help a lady from the church move from one apartment to the other. There was a lot of stuff to be moved, so the whole team ended up joining to help carry furniture and boxes up and down the stairs to her new apartment. It was a lot of work, but it felt good to help a lady who was in need, and we were grateful for the opportunity.

After an afternoon break, we loaded up the bus and headed for Palos Heights to participate in an open gym at Trinity Christian College. They were very kind to let us come in and play with them, and it gave us the opportunity to play together and get better once again on the trip. We stopped by an authentic hot dog place before heading back to school for the night. Before we went to bed, Coach Douma got the team together to talk about some of the experiences of the day. Also, we talked about homelessness, how it happens, and what the Bible says about it.

Wednesday marked our last day of camp and service at Chicago West Side Christian. The campers had fun on the last day, playing a few competitions and games that we had set up and finished camp with a game of knockout. One of the more outspoken kids at camp asked to break it down for everybody one last time. Upon his request, on “three” we all said, “Dordt College is gonna win the championship next year.” Meanwhile, the work around school was finished up with more painting and cleaning up trash.

After we had said our goodbyes to the campers and Mrs. Post, we headed to our hotel downtown on Michigan Avenue. As part of the trip, the coaches wanted the players to experience both sides of the socio-economic spectrum in Chicago. After being around poverty for three days, we were now surrounded with wealth. It was amazing that such a wide gap exists only a few miles apart.  The team spent Wednesday night shopping at a few places in downtown Chicago and eating at a nice restaurant. For devotions, we discussed the sharp contrast that was apparent between the two places we had stayed on the trip.

After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to head out bright and early Thursday morning to get back to campus. The Chicago experience had left a mark on all of us. We grew together as a team and had a good time no matter what we did. In addition, we got better at basketball by playing a different style of ball against a few colleges. Most of all, we became more culturally aware and sensitive to issues that plague the inner-cities in our country because of this trip. Most of us had never seen what it was like to live in a neighborhood such as West Chicago. We were touched by the people there and hopefully made an impact on the school and youth of that community. The guys’ favorite experiences were the African-American church service and kayaking in downtown Chicago. Coach Douma and the coaches did a great job of setting up the trip and making it a life-changing experience for us and we are very grateful to have had this opportunity.

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